The Indiana Supreme Court has placed an attorney on probation, after finding that she withdrew unearned funds from her client trust account. In the Matter of Jennifer L. Graham, an attorney wrote a check to herself from her client trust account in the amount of $1,100, and wrote the words “HELP ME” next to the check number in her account ledger book. A few days later, she wrote another check in the amount of $550 with the same phrase written in the ledger. When she presented the second check for payment, it was dishonored. She repaid the $1,100 several days later.
The Florida Supreme Court has entered a judgment suspending an attorney for three years, after finding that he violated the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct. In Florida Bar v. Bruce Edward Committe, an attorney filed a lawsuit on behalf of a client against a defendant, alleging that he maliciously interfered with a business relationship of the client and slandered the client.
The defendant moved for summary judgment. The court granted the motion, holding that there was no admissible evidence to support either count of the client’s complaint. Following a hearing on the motion, the court ordered the attorney and his client to compensate the defendant a total of $13,000 for his attorney’s fees and court costs. The attorney subsequently appealed.
The Florida First District Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision. After the appeal, the defendant sent two letters to the attorney requesting that he pay his portion of the judgment. After he received the second letter, the attorney wrote to his local district attorney and claimed that the defendant was attempting to extort him.
The Michigan Supreme Court has removed and conditionally suspended a judge after ruling that he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct. In the matter of Wade H. McCree, a judge was presiding over a case regarding the nonpayment of child support. While the case was ongoing, he began a sexual relationship with the petitioner, who was the mother of the child. He continued to oversee the matter, and sent her private messages about the case. He later recused himself, but did not disclose the relationship as the reason for his recusal.
The judge was also presiding over a criminal case against the woman’s uncle. While he was still romantically involved with her, he signed an order reducing her uncle’s bond also sent her text messages about the case.
The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court disbarred an attorney after finding that he had intentionally converted client funds. The attorney was a partner in a real-estate company, which facilitated mortgage loans to investors for the purchase and rehabilitation of distressed properties. Investor funds were secured by mortgages on various properties and investors were issued promissory notes providing periodic interest payments.
In 2007, the attorney’s firm stopped making interest payments to investors and explained that, as a result of the financial crisis, many of the borrowers were unable to make payments and he had foreclosed on the loans on the investors behalf. However, in lieu of foreclosure on one particular property, the attorney transferred title from a third party into the name of an investor, unbeknownst to him. The attorney then forged the investor’s signature on a deed transferring the property to an entity solely controlled by his partner’s mother in exchange for $65,000.
This purchase was facilitated by a loan provided by another investor. Part of the agreement with this investor, required that a specific amount of the loan proceeds were to be held in a separate escrow account to be used for rehabilitating the properties. The attorney instead deposited the funds into his lawyer’s trust account, and subsequently withdrew the money without the client’s permission.
The Supreme Court of Georgia has revoked an attorney’s license to practice law in Georgia. The lawyer represented a client in a personal injury action and negotiated a settlement in the amount of $30,000. The defendants disbursed the settlement to the attorney, who deposited the check into his personal account and absconded with the money. When the client never received the settlement funds and was unable to contact the attorney, he sought and obtained another payment from the defendants. The defendants were also unable to locate the attorney and notified the Georgia State Bar of his conduct.
A disciplinary complaint issued, but the attorney again failed to respond. For the above reasons, the Supreme Court of Georgia found that the attorney had wrongfully commingled funds, in violation of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct, Rules 1.15(II)(a) and 8.4(a)(4), and revoked his license to practice law.
The North Carolina State Bar Disciplinary Commission recently disbarred an attorney who had been licensed to practice law in the state since 1997. In the Matter of David Shawn Clark, an attorney became romantically involved with a client in proceedings related to a domestic violence incident. The client’s estranged husband discovered the affair and threatened to sue the lawyer in tort for ‘alienation of affection’, which is a common law claim that a spouse may bring against a third party, whom they hold responsible for the failure of their marriage.
In response to the threat of this lawsuit, the attorney attempted to silence those who had specific knowledge of the affair, fearing that its exposure would ruin his family relationships and his law practice. He threatened to report damaging information about the client, which he had learned as a result of the attorney-client relationship, to the Department of Social Services in order to interfere with her custody over her children. Next, he berated his legal secretary and threatened her with physical harm if she did not protect his secret.
The California Supreme Court has rejected a majority recommendation of the California State Bar Court that an applicant be admitted to the California State Bar, on the basis that he had not provided sufficient evidence of a significant change in his character. The applicant was a former journalist, who fabricated several articles that he produced for various news sources from in the late 1990’s. He often contrived evidence to support the articles, in order to deceive the fact checkers that reviewed his articles before publication. He was eventually caught and fired.
While working as a journalist, he also attended evening classes at a law school. After graduating, he took and passed the New York bar exam. He disclosed his past discretions in his application for admission to the bar, but withdrew it after he was informally told that it would have been rejected as a result of his conduct.
He then moved to California and began clerking for a local law firm. While in California, he sought psychiatric treatment and assisted homeless clients with their personal and legal matters.
Several years later, he took the California bar exam, passed, and sought admission to the bar. The California Committee of Bar Examiners denied his application stating that he did not satisfy the requirements of California’s moral fitness test.
The Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (“BBO”) has issued an admonition of an attorney after finding that he violated the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct. The attorney represented the victim of an auto accident, who was disabled as a result of the accident. The attorney filed the lawsuit timely, but failed to effect service, which resulted in dismissal of the case. The attorney was able to have the case reinstated, but it was dismissed again after the attorney failed to respond to discovery requests. Over one year later, the attorney moved to vacate the dismissal, but the motion was denied as untimely.
The BBO held that the attorney’s failure to diligently pursue the client’s case was a violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1 and 1.3. The attorney also failed to inform the client of either dismissal and did not respond to the client’s requests for status updates, as required by Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.4(a) and (b).